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Congratulations high-school graduates: The big day you've been waiting for so long has arrived.
In just a few days, you'll take those anticipated steps onto a stage and claim that diploma. You'll also take a giant step toward adulthood.
Amid the congratulations and cards, weekend barbecues and cookouts, take time over the next few days to thank the people who have made the big day possible.
Begin with your parents. Give them a big hug and thank them for always being there for you, in good times and bad. They've logged thousands of miles to academic and sporting events, parent-teacher conferences and, for many, college scouting trips.
Don't underestimate how proud your parents are of you. Keep in mind, however, that graduations are bittersweet moments for many parents. They're happy to the point of busting but sorry to see time fly by. Most know you'll soon fly from the family nest.
As the final days of school pass, thank your teachers for their efforts over the past 18 years. Teaching is more than a job. It's a vocation and the men and women who first welcomed you into kindergarten, helped you master reading, multiplication tables, history, algebra and computers base a large measure of their success on how well you'll do in the years to come.
Don't forget your community. While your parents and teachers have much invested in your lives, they're not alone. We all have a stake in your success, financially through the taxes all of us pay but more importantly, through the work so many people have contributed.
We hope many of you will choose Perry County to establish your new lives. But we know that's not possible for everyone.
As the glow of graduation fades, reality will take hold. In the months ahead, you'll face tough decisions and more responsibility, from getting out of bed for those morning college classes to balancing school with a job.
High-school grads and those receiving college diplomas this spring don't need to be told about the tough job market. Entering the work force right away, you're already aware of the recession-hit job market.
Commencement brings all sorts of advice and pithy sayings about looking toward the future. Here are my suggestions.
In the years ahead, don't be afraid to change directions, whether that's a new college major or a new job. The world belongs to the brave. Follow your passions and dreams. When defeated, admit the losses, learn from the experience and move on. Set realistic goals and always give it your all. Stay involved in your communities, wherever life's journey takes you.
Enjoy the days ahead and remember they're not just an end of a journey, but a beginning.